Question Do we have any commercial pilots here?

Ark

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Earlier this year, my attempted career for the first four years of my adult life completely crashed and burned like an XR-2 hitting atmo at .99 c. I need to do something different in my life, and I'm thinking maybe I should pursue something I believe I'll enjoy more than what I was doing.

I'm wondering if we have any current commercial pilots hanging around the forums who can give some insight into what it actually takes, financially and in time, to acquire a commercial license and find a flying gig that at least pays the bills. No massive jet airliners, just smaller prop-driven charter stuff.

-How on earth do you deal with the massive upfront cost before you can even tow a banner down a beach?

-Job enjoyment aside, is it even possible to make enough money to deal with the debt you'll accumulate in flight school? Is flight training completely exempt from federal student assistance, and if not, is taking on student loans a spectacularly dumb thing to do right now? Especially after I already feel like :censored: every time I see the outstanding balance on my worthless Associates'?

-Is it smarter to spend, say, $50k chasing a Bachelors in informatics or some computer-related stuff, or $50k chasing a commercial license?

-I saw Sullenburger's rant about pay and working conditions, would I just be setting myself up for an even more miserable job? Will low pay and terrible management have me quitting to pursue a career at McDonald's in the first year?

-Is it in any way, shape, or form worth it after the work is done and the money is spent? Seems like for every person I see that's happy with their career, at least one or two are letting their licenses rot in their wallets while they finish drywall for a living.
 

Hielor

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-Is it smarter to spend, say, $50k chasing a Bachelors in informatics or some computer-related stuff, or $50k chasing a commercial license?
I'm not a commercial pilot (just a PPL) so I can't really answer your other questions, but as for this one:

If you enjoy "computer-related stuff," there's a whole lot more money to be had in that industry than aviation. My recommendation would be to start in something like that, use that to fund your aviation education, and then switch if it's still something you want to do.

You need to be really, really motivated in order to pursue a career as a pilot starting from scratch. Also, if you end up deciding that what you're learning to do isn't what you want to do after 3 years, finishing up a computer degree of some kind and putting up with normal hours and decent pay is a whole lot nicer than becoming a pilot.

For me, I'd always kind of wanted to be a pilot, but I'm also really good with (and enjoy) computers. I used my salary from my programming job to bankroll pilot training through the PPL and didn't ever have to resort to eating ramen :lol:. If I wanted to continue in aviation, I have the funds to do so and could potentially consider a career switch at some point in the future (although it's unlikely).

Anyway, that's my perspective from the practical side of things...
 

TMac3000

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I like ramen noodles:) (Just not three times a day:shifty:)

I'm glad that Ark brought this up. It's something I've been curious about myself. I would love to fly, even if the pay is lousy (as long as I can live off it), just for the sheer enjoyment. I love airplanes, and have thousands of hours in computer sims, but have never sat at the controls of a real aircraft.

I just got a job doing taxes for H&R Block, so I'll probably be about 50 by the time I get off the ground:(
 

Yoda

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The upfront cost is huge; I used to fly (not comercially) and my friend that I flew with actually went on to fly for a Caribean based airline.

You have to go one step at a time; get your private license first ( not so difficult but expensive) then get "checked out" in a variety of single engine planes and get a IFR rating before moving on to get a multi-engine rating.

Once you have a multi engine rating obviously gain experience on a variety of aircraft and build up time and experience before moving on to jet aircraft ( whole different ball game).

I don't know what age you are ( I started flying at 25) but in lue of finances take it one step at a time ( maybe while you earn money elsewhere).

Flying seems exciting at first but after a few years it's almost like driving a bus ( with wings that is):cheers:
 

BusDriver

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I am, but unfortunately can't help much as I fly south of the equator... where things are, thankfully, a lot easier and with a lot more opportunities than in the USA.

You did ask one thing:

-Is it smarter to spend, say, $50k chasing a Bachelors in informatics or some computer-related stuff, or $50k chasing a commercial license?

If you mean money wise, you'll get more with a bachelors in mostly anything else but your commercial license. At the end, it depends on what YOU want to do for a living.

You need to remember, this job is cyclical, there are both good and bad years, and you never know how long you'll have your job. For the record, I got my commercial license ASAP, and got a good paying job less than a year after I finished, thanks to the amazingly big demand there is for pilots here in Peru. I'm working right now on making other investments though to ensure I have something to live with in case this doesn't last forever.

In the USA, I know the regionals are hiring, but pay is... low for USA life costs. Things get better only after around 4-5 years of job experience. For pay rates, use this webpage to figure out how much you would make on the first years at the job: http://www.willflyforfood.com/airline-pilot-salary/
 

Piper

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While I'm not a commercial pilot yet, I have been working on getting my CPL for the last few years. The first thing is, to make sure you want to be come a pilot for the right reasons. First and foremost, do it because you LOVE flying. I've seen a lot of people who have made the mistake of trying to become a pilot because they thought being a pilot was cool, or airplanes are cool, or it's fun and easy, or because they thought they'd make good money. You don't make good money, ever. Some lucky few do, but don't expect to go into it being one (unless you've already flown for the military, they generally do well). And while it is true that flying is cool :cool:, everything else isn't. There's nothing remotely cool in doing a walk-around of an aircraft in the dead of winter, loading cargo (rampies aren't always available), paperwork, management, etc. And there's nothing fun about studying to get your CPL. The flying part is fun, but studying airlaw, meteorology, etc, that will make you want to pull your hair out. Also, BE PREPARED TO MOVE! I can't stress that enough. Unless you are really lucky, you probably won't have any decent jobs anywhere around you. I've met a few people, friends and flight instructors, that are trapped here in Ottawa because they either have families, or can't move for other reasons, and natrually, can't get a job. All the ones that I do know with good jobs, have literally moved half way around the world to get there first jobs (mostly in Africa).

So if the idea of moving to the middle of nowhere, working for nothing, in poor conditions, and flying all the time in aircraft that's potentially older then you are makes you salivate, then absolutely go for it. As for the money part, it is expensive, although with the costs of tuition these days, it's not really any worse then most degrees/diplomas out there now.
 

Capt_hensley

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Most commercial pilots are retired military pilots, if you want the fast track, pursue a military career, but be aware, less than 20% of the officers who seek a pilot position actually get one. The Navies have a great pilot ascension program, but you have to be really sharp, and really good at carrier landings. You don't have to retire, but staying in long enough to get the right experience is difficult in less than 6 years.

Being a commercial pilot comes easy once you get a great deal of flight hours behind lots of different aircraft, Alaska is always seeking bush pilots, but it's a different kind of flying as well.

Most airline pilots didn't seek the position, they fell into it, being in the right place in the right time. It's not easy for anyone, but especially moreso for someone starting from scratch and actually seeking it.

While not all pilots fly for the US, the international pilots language is English, it stands to reason that most of the pilots in service(57%) are from an English speaking country, and not surprisingly, mostly US citizens(73% of the above slice) Foreign countries seek English speaking pilots. So you already have an advantage.

Keep in mind all pilots must start in a lower grade, and serve as a first officer for quite some time, before they get promoted into full captainship. Owning your own plane is one way to avoid ascending through the ranks, but it also has its drawbacks. No matter what, you have to acquire lots of flight hours, and experience in multiple aircraft outside the military to ascend into commercial flight.

There are also flight programs for major airlines, but they have a specific ascension protocol and the tuition cost is very high. It all takes hard work, and lots of time, in the end being a pilot is a rewarding career if you stick it out.
 

Codz

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Most commercial pilots are retired military pilots, if you want the fast track, pursue a military career, but be aware, less than 20% of the officers who seek a pilot position actually get one.

Becoming a military pilot is going to be almost harder than becoming a commercial pilot. The Air Force and Navy are VERY picky when it comes to pilots,especially fighter pilots. You had better be in perfect health and have amazing piloting skills if you want to be a military pilot.
 

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Down here in Australia the job market for pilots is alot better, mostly because there is a large demand for pilots to help fly mining equipment/workers around the deserts and such but there is also quite a few job opportunities down south (where i live) where there is alot of instructing work to be done in the cities.

I cant comment on America's aviation environment, but i would imagine your going to have to make a similar choice.

If you are thinking of becoming an instructor, you will find your work in the bigger cities and you will need to earn an instructor rating and a night VFR rating minimum on top of your commercial lisence.

If you would like to charter fly, well your likely going to have to move to where the jobs are as its alot less.. predictable.
What you will need for anyone to even take a look at your resume would be a Multi engine rating and a Dangerous goods certificate. IFR rating would also be a huge advantage.

An instructor rating is pretty much equivilent in price to a multi engine and IFR rating, though take all this with a grain of salt because as i said.. im Australian :thumbup:

The airlines down here want 1500 hours in command before they will hire you, and the regional airlines want 800 so they are a bit further down the track, so unless you get a place in a cadet program you are going to want to investigate charter/instructing work.

I'm coming to the end of my CPL training and i would have to say its not that hard, as long as your willing to put in and study the material you will get through no problems. It is alot of fun and i really couldnt imagine a better job. :)
 

Hielor

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Down here in Australia the job market for pilots is alot better, mostly because there is a large demand for pilots to help fly mining equipment/workers around the deserts and such but there is also quite a few job opportunities down south (where i live) where there is alot of instructing work to be done in the cities.

I cant comment on America's aviation environment, but i would imagine your going to have to make a similar choice.

If you are thinking of becoming an instructor, you will find your work in the bigger cities and you will need to earn an instructor rating and a night VFR rating minimum on top of your commercial lisence.

If you would like to charter fly, well your likely going to have to move to where the jobs are as its alot less.. predictable.
What you will need for anyone to even take a look at your resume would be a Multi engine rating and a Dangerous goods certificate. IFR rating would also be a huge advantage.

An instructor rating is pretty much equivilent in price to a multi engine and IFR rating, though take all this with a grain of salt because as i said.. im Australian :thumbup:
The airlines down here want 1500 hours in command before they will hire you, and the regional airlines want 800 so they are a bit further down the track, so unless you get a place in a cadet program you are going to want to investigate charter/instructing work.

I'm coming to the end of my CPL training and i would have to say its not that hard, as long as your willing to put in and study the material you will get through no problems. It is alot of fun and i really couldnt imagine a better job. :)
In America there's no "night vfr" rating--you need IFR with commercial or else you're limited to day only and within 50mi of home.
 

Aviator

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We also have that 50nm restriction, but only if you are not carrying an ELT.
So there is no night flying at all allowed without an IFR rating?
Seems quite restrictive..
 

Hielor

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We also have that 50nm restriction, but only if you are not carrying an ELT.
So there is no night flying at all allowed without an IFR rating?
Seems quite restrictive..

When exercising the privileges of your commercial certificate (e.g., flying for hire, although I'm not sure about instruction, it might be excluded), correct.

You can fly VFR at night as a private pilot just fine.
 

Ark

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So, is it cheaper to pay for instruction and experience hours up to commercial license qualification, or is it cheaper to just buy a bloody plane and hire an instructor as needed? Seems like a lot of the experience requirement is just "flight time" and nothing specific. Most of the expense is in renting and fueling the aircraft, right?

The local field rents Cessna 150s for $70 an hour. 285 hours will get you to $20,000, which will pay for any one of the 150s listed on Ebay right now. Is there any reason NOT to buy a dinky little 150 to rack up time? You'll spend the same money, and get a plane at the end of it.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1962...533060?pt=Motors_Aircraft&hash=item4842ede844

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1965...436802?pt=Motors_Aircraft&hash=item4842dd2e02

I guess the only problem with that plan is that I'm not a small person and 150s can barely hold two lightweight people.
 
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I can't answer the one question you have (better to buy first, opposed to renting), but this answer really resonates with me.

I know it's common sense, but I felt it needed to be said again: Biggest problem with buying a plane?

You're buying someone else's problem.

If you are going to go that route, be absolutely sure you get that airplane checked out by a reputable A&P mechanic -- and not just theirs.
 

Hielor

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So, is it cheaper to pay for instruction and experience hours up to commercial license qualification, or is it cheaper to just buy a bloody plane and hire an instructor as needed? Seems like a lot of the experience requirement is just "flight time" and nothing specific. Most of the expense is in renting and fueling the aircraft, right?

The local field rents Cessna 150s for $70 an hour. 285 hours will get you to $20,000, which will pay for any one of the 150s listed on Ebay right now. Is there any reason NOT to buy a dinky little 150 to rack up time? You'll spend the same money, and get a plane at the end of it.

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1962...533060?pt=Motors_Aircraft&hash=item4842ede844

http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/1965...436802?pt=Motors_Aircraft&hash=item4842dd2e02

I guess the only problem with that plan is that I'm not a small person and 150s can barely hold two lightweight people.
There are several books on the subject of airplane ownership and I'd strongly recommend picking one or more of them up if you're considering it.

Owning has a lot of disadvantages compared to renting. In addition to the upfront cost of ownership, you're responsible for all maintenance, upkeep, and fixed costs (hangar/tiedown, insurance, etc). If something breaks, you have to fix it.

There's also availability--if you're renting from a reputable FBO, they'll have several planes available. If the one you've reserved is out for maintenance, they'll usually have another for you. If you own your own plane, you're out of luck when it's in maintenance and annual.

When looking at buying a plane for flight training, you also have to keep in mind that flight training is generally very hard on planes. Hard landings, poor engine management--all can contribute to shortening the lifespan of parts and increasing costs for you. FBOs expect to have to take care of that kind of thing.

Also, flexibility--if for some reason you fall on hard times or have a medical issue and can't fly for several months, having a plane sitting on the ramp isn't good at all (engines don't do well if they sit for long periods). If you're renting, you can just stop flying for a period.

Don't forget you'll also need to pay the instructor, and that's 1/4th or so of the cost of the flight training anyway that you don't save by having your own bird.

Ignoring the flight instruction and just looking at costs of ownership vs. renting, the break-even point is somewhere around 100 hours a year--if you fly more than that, you're generally better off owning. If you fly less, you're generally better off renting. Additionally, if you like to make weekend trips involving overnight stays, owning might be a better idea.

Another problem is that if you buy a plane to train in you're locking yourself into just that one plane, whereas if you're renting you generally have a better range of planes to choose from which can allow you to better evaluate what kind of flying to do, and what kind of plane you want to buy.

My recommendation would be to rent at least until you get your PPL and for 6 months to a year afterwards. Then, take a look at your flying habits and what kind of plane would suit your needs, if any, and make the decision then.

- From the perspective of someone who was very seriously considering purchasing a plane a few months back :thumbup:
 

Ark

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Okay, you make a pretty good argument. For lots of flying and general hours logging it makes sense to own, but not so much in the initial training period where you're hard on aircraft and looking to pick up variety in experience, not just quantity. Plus, if paying for training is tough already, paying all of the associated costs of ownership won't be much easier. I guess it makes more sense when grinding for commercial license and job qualification experience, but it's a bad idea to buy a plane on Ebay and show up at the local field asking "Can you teach me to fly this crate"?

I assume FAA rules for maintenance are pretty strict for aircraft. I'm an okay mechanic and capable of diagnosing, fixing and maintaining many cars, but the FAA won't take my word for it if I say I preform all the servicing myself, right? A piston 150 engine from the 60s can't be any more difficult or complex than an SBC...
 

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Hi Ark,

I'm an airline pilot...former military. been in this business for 30 years...contact me off list, I'll be more than happy to discuss things with you. As Len Morgan use to say years ago..."learning to fly today is just as expensive as in years gone buy, it takes every penny you've got."

Dave
 
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Hielor

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Okay, you make a pretty good argument. For lots of flying and general hours logging it makes sense to own, but not so much in the initial training period where you're hard on aircraft and looking to pick up variety in experience, not just quantity. Plus, if paying for training is tough already, paying all of the associated costs of ownership won't be much easier. I guess it makes more sense when grinding for commercial license and job qualification experience, but it's a bad idea to buy a plane on Ebay and show up at the local field asking "Can you teach me to fly this crate"?

I assume FAA rules for maintenance are pretty strict for aircraft. I'm an okay mechanic and capable of diagnosing, fixing and maintaining many cars, but the FAA won't take my word for it if I say I preform all the servicing myself, right? A piston 150 engine from the 60s can't be any more difficult or complex than an SBC...
Sorry for not spotting this sooner.

While there are a number of maintenance tasks you can do as an owner (oil changes comes to mind), anything major requires that you have an A&P (Airframe & Powerplant) certification, which takes over a year of education to get--you can look it up for more details. For annual inspections, they have to be done by an A&P with an Inspection Authorization, which translates to even more education (and money :p).

If you're very mechanically inclined, you may want to consider looking into building your own plane--you will receive a "repairman certificate" for the plane which allows you to do all maintenance, although the annual condition inspection will need to be signed off by an A&P (no IA necessary). I'd still recommend that you get the PPL before doing that, though :p

There's lots of info on the web for you to peruse if this is something you'd be interested in.
 

Cras

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I recommend you head down to your local FBO, and talk to some of the instructors and see what they have to say. Checkrides are expesive, instruction is expected, you need tons of hours, time on aircraft is expensive, fuel is expensive, expect to go from zero hour to ATP to cost you something like 75 grand.

I would just as well recommend you apply to NASA's astronaut posting. Odds are probably just as good as going from zero to commercial line pilot.

I considered flying as a profession, but quickly abanonded that once I started really digging in to see what it would take. I love to fly, but it requires such a huge financial risk to take to get the training, and even if you get lucky and get a right seat job for a line, they will not repay your comittment.
 

cymrych

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Ark, something else to keep in mind in terms of the timing for getting your CPL is an upcomng change in the rules for charter groups hiring pilots. Sometime in the next 2 years, the rule will require 1500 hours for getting hired.

I'm in the same predicament as you are, contemplating a CPL as part of a career shift. I was hoping to work another year or two and really save up the cash for training, but this rule change has me now considering a small mountain of new loans in order to be done and hired before the rule takes effect. Not sure if its quite worth it though (for myself, that is.)
 
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